Sunday, June 17, 2012

Walking a Scapegoat ridge

An unnamed alpine lake beneath the high point on the Wood Lake Hogback in the Scapegoat Wilderness
"Hogback" isn't the kind of mountain name that I find particularly attractive.
Yet, the hogback I walked on Friday is as pretty a place as you can imagine.
It's been in sight all these years as I've driven up the Benchmark Road out of Augusta.  I've always made a mental note of this "Wood Creek Hogback" which starts with Crown Mountain and ends near the Benchmark Campground.  This is a major ridge walk.
We walked a major section of it, making sure to hit the high points, with 7,977 feet the highest.  We gained more than 3,700 feet of elevation along the way.
Jim and Mark working way through cliffs
I don't think we could have found a more difficult way to get on top --- approaching it frontally through the cliffs.  And, getting down wasn't all that much easier.
I'm just not the climber I used to be.  My balance is shot and I get dizzy fairly easily, so working my way up and down Class 4 cliffs is laborious and time consuming.  Luckily, my climbing partners Mark Hertenstein and Jim Heckel are patient and helpful in getting me up and down.  But, I see the handwriting on the wall and  this kind of climbing will be in my past fairly soon.
It was my second time up the Benchmark Road in four days and serendipitously we started our way up across the road from where Katie and I had stopped to look at the Lick Creek Falls for the first time.  While there I looked up and told her I'd like to try to get on the "hogback."
When offered as a possibility Friday, Hertenstein jumped at it.
Lots of snow all the way
Patrol Mountain ridge and lookout was within view
It would have been an easy climb up for me if we had started up the ridge a mile or so to the north where the cliffs recede.
Likewise, it would have been easier to descend further south down the ridge than where we did.
The biggest surprise of the hike was a discovery of an alpine lake just below the high point on the ridge.
Walking the Wood Lake Hogback
At first I thought it might be the official Alpine Lake just north of Crown Mountain.
But, no, I had seen that lake from Crown before and it was nothing like this jewel beneath us.
I rechecked the map and located a tiny, almost indecipherable spec of lake on it and figured that must be it.
The views from the ridgeline on this clear day were astounding with the Scapegoat Mountain massif and plateau dominating the southwestern horizon.  Right in front of us to the west was the Patrol Mountain ridgeline, sharply defined by its many avalanche chutes.  Straight Creek separates that ridge from the hogback we were walking.
There was plenty of snow on the hogback and the cornices were massively thick.
Our Hogback walk route
The mountains to the west, deep in the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat are full of snow, portending good streamflows and (I hope) a late or non-existent fire season.
One of the big surprises came at the end of the hike about 600 feet above the road when we ran into an extremely deep and steep canyon that we had to down climb and then upclimb the adjacent slope.

The Scapegoat Mountain high country behind me to the west

A Father's Day trip to Glacier
This moron from Wisconsin jumped into this rushing pool of frigid water in the pool beneath St. Mary's Falls.  He's lucky to have survived the jump and swim.
In the water.  
Katie and I took a quick trip to Glacier National Park Saturday and Sunday, my first time in the park this spring.
We stayed at the Many Glacier Swiftcurrent cabins and did a series of day hikes.
The weather was extremely changeable and we got rained on several times.
We hit the St. Mary and Virginia Falls trail and Fishercap Lake the first day.
On Sunday it was Fishercap again hunting for moose and then a walk from the Jackson Overlook on the Going to the Sun Road to the Siyeh Bend, where a heavy rain forced us back.  The Road is still closed, but we could have hiked all the way to Logan Pass if the rain hadn't been so heavy.  We're told the pass will open this week.
Mount Jackson
We stopped at East Glacier Park and then went hunting for moose again at Bear Lake off Marias Pass, again coming up with nothing.
There is still tons of snow in the high country at Glacier, although some of the peaks near the Front in St. Mary's and Two Medicine look climbable.
There were very few trails open in the Many Glacier area because of bear and snow closures.
We saw a small grizzly wander through the campground at Many and another grizzly cross the road near Two Dog Flats at St. Mary.

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